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(Live Review) BLUE OYSTER CULT + SUPPORT - St. Charles, Ill (11/11/23)


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The Beard & Little Johnny

Good evening Beard and Little Johnny fans. After last night’s crazy outing with Dragonforce and their three support bands, both Little Johnny and The Beard are dragging ass a bit. Our motto though is “Metal Never Sleeps” and “The Reviews Never Stop,” so we are out again this evening to catch an act almost as old as the Beard himself; Blue Oyster Cult.

For those keeping count, this will be show #66 of this year, and bands #284-285.

Formed back in 1967 as Soft White Underbelly by guitarist Don “Buck Dharma” Roesner, by 1971 (after adding singer Eric Bloom in 1969) the band changed their name to Blue Oyster Cult and released an album of the same name in 1972. BOC had their first hit “Cities on Flame” in 1972 and landed an opening gig with Alice Cooper.

In 1975 the band released a live album On Your Feet Or On Your Knees that went gold and began their rise to headliner prominence. 1976’s Agents of Fortune release would go platinum with their biggest hit “Don’t Fear the Reaper”. 1977’s Specters would see another gold album and another big hit with “Godzilla”. By this point BOC were regularly touring with other 1970’s names like Cheap Trick and Ted Nugent. Two more big selling albums would follow with 1980’s Cultosaures Erectus (featuring the hit “Black Blade”), and Fire of Unknown Origin in 1982 (featuring radio hit “Burning for You” and “Veteran of the Psychic Wars”, (which would appear on the Heavy Metal movie soundtrack.)

Band tensions caused a breakup at this point as drummer Albert Bouchard left the band. BOC would release a couple more albums in the 80’s and continued touring with an ever-changing lineup (outside of Roesner and Bloom), but not to any real new success. In fact, no new BOC music came out until 1998, (although the band kept touring on past glory), until Heaven Forbid in 1998 and Curse of the Hidden Mirror in 2001. Both failed to chart and by 2004, the lineup of BOC would start changing again.

No further studio albums would emerge until 2020, but the band (like their hit song namesake “Godzilla”) would continue to lumber onwards touring with other old time classic rock acts like Black Sabbath & Deep Purple.

This evening’s show celebrates 50 years together with a supposed all hit’s package. When explaining all this to Little Johnny, he sighed and said “Well, at least I’ve heard of a couple of those songs, but Beard, what the hell is a Blue Oyster Cult anyway?” Well, Johnny, the band was never totally clear on that. Depending on who you believe, it might be about a race of Aliens who are secretly guiding Earth’s future, or it might just be anagram of Cully Stout Beer.” “Hey Beard, maybe it’s Aliens WITH beer.”

In the end, BOC has inspired a lot of metal bands, and their biggest hits have shown up on movies, TV, and commercials. They may be chestnuts now, but no one can deny once upon a time they were arguably a top five US band for making money touring. Although only two original members remain, two others (Jules Radino on drums, and Richie Castelano on keys) have been with the band almost twenty years giving them authenticity.


First though are openers ...

THE VAUGHN BUILDING

These guys are mostly a cover band. Opening with “Break on Through” was not a bad start. They did sound a little Doors like. The next song though was Donovan’s “Season of the Witch” which was both an unusual and an inspired choice that was also nicely performed. If you are going to do more obscure covers, you have my attention.

They then did an original, so points for that and it was a decent bluesy rock song. Next, they pulled out “St. James Infirmary.” This song's origins are somewhere back in the 1920’s making this another unique choice, that I suspect they made because The Doors were doing it in 1970 and this band seems to be pulling from The Doors own covers catalog circa 1969-70, as made evident by their next song “Back Door Man”. This, I thought could have been done a little funkier and dirtier but overall (for a cover band), I appreciated their set list.

Not every selection was gold however, “Street Fighting Man” was in fact a musical chop shop on a fine automobile, but the Beard is granting a little leeway because after hearing a hundred bands assassinate Journey this year, it was nice to witness a group finally go at a covers set in a truly unique manner.


Although there is no grade for a “covers” band, the Beard applauds The Vaughan Building as one of the better ones this year. Keep writing originals guys, you have something.



BLUE OYSTER CULT

BOC hit the stage with “Tattoo Vampire” from Agents of Fortune. Honestly, I only vaguely remember that song. “Before the Kiss a Redcap” (from their first release) had a nice bass solo to it. “Dancin’ in the Ruins” from Club Ninja was not one I knew. They next went to Specters for "Golden Age of Leather.” At this point my opinion was “Not bad. They are definitely pulling from their entire historic catalog” (although I also noted that visually they looked like the cast of the Sopranos on stage).

They next did “That Was Me” from the 2020 release The Symbol Remains. I had never heard that one, but it was not bad. Their first BIG number, “Burning for You,” from Fire of Unknown Origin was okay, but not anything really amazing performance wise. The one after that though, “ETI” (again from Agents of Fortune was a far better performance and sounded like classic Blue Oyster Cult.


I could remember shooting some pool in a friend’s basement and rocking to that one. “ETI” also exemplified BOC’s love of obscure occultic lyrics. Although primarily a song about aliens & the infamous Men in Black, their references to “The King in Yellow & The Queen in Red” inspired me to both read R.W. Chambers and hunt down the ancient Florentine Fresco of the deathless female entity with the bat wings & clawed hands that inspired John Tynes. (Ed: Umm, okay.) This song was the high point of the show for me as it represented what appealed to me about Blue Oyster Cult as a teenager.


Honestly, I could not tell you any of the next three songs as I did not recognize any of them. The next one I knew was the opening strains of “Godzilla.” This one was enjoyable to hear, but like many bands that have been playing their big hits every night for thirty, forty, and in BOC’s case almost fifty years, I often get the feeling they are just tired of it. "Godzilla" felt like that.

The main set ended with “Don’t Fear the Reaper” which suffered a performance similar to that of “Godzilla,” which is to say a feeling of “Let’s just get through this.” Although I will say "Reaper" had a much stronger ending solo.


The encore was three songs from the really early days including “Career of Evil” and “Harvester of Eyes” from Secret Treaties & “Hot Rails to Hell” from Tyranny & Mutation.


BOC are not bad for guys in their 70’s, but there seems little doubt the glory days are long past. As a nostalgic act, I would give them 75 but “ETI” was really good and took me back, so I will award five additional points and an overall 80/100.

On the way out, I talked to a gentleman who claimed to have seen Blue Oyster Cult almost forty times, so I asked what he thought of the night’s performance. Although he was more glowing than my own review, he did infer the bigger hits have gotten weaker over the years and what the band really likes is playing the lesser-known material at this point, but know they can’t overdo it because the audience wants the better-known stuff. The Beard understands.


Tonight’s opener played more obscure covers and they were instantly more memorable to me than just another jukebox band, but I also understand that when you pay your money for a headliner, you want to hear some of your favorites. I am put in mind of a cover band at a small show who after stating, “We would like to play you something we wrote ourselves,” were answered by someone yelling out “Freebird!!!” I laughed aloud when the singer calmly looked in the direction of the voice and said, “We didn’t write that one. Do you think we’re Lynyrd Skynyrd? Because if so you might be at the wrong show.”


Speaking of shows, this concludes our 66th show as well as bands #284-285. Remember to check us out each Wednesday & Thursday at your award-winning home for Metal.

The Mighty Decibel

Then be sure to check out the Beards TIKTOK and Facebook videos, and pictures of shows by searching.

Thebeard0728, or #thebeardandlittlejohnny on TikTok or Mark McQueen on Facebook


Until next time

Stay Heavy

&

Horns Up!!!!

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